Retired life is something you’ve been dreaming about for decades. Now that you’ve found yourself ready to relax and enjoy a bit of what life has to offer, it’s time to consider some of the best vacation ideas for retired couples. In fact, as an older adult (or really for any adult), research shows that vacationing is good for you. One 2014 study indicated traveling could improve happiness, and results from a 2013 survey found it increased empathy, attention, energy and focus. A 2010 paper even linked travel to enhanced creativity.
Your definition of a dream vacation will vary based on your comfort level and personal preferences. Some people crave an itinerary packed with adventure, while others have yet to meet a beach chair they haven’t loved. For many, staying in the US for a vacation is the best way to spend retirement. But rest assured, there’s a destination for everyone. Consider these the best trip ideas for retirees.
Blue Ridge Parkway
The first of our vacation ideas for retired couples is a road trip. Not just any road trip, this great American road trip is high on mountain and waterfall views and low on the need to take mass transit (unless you need to fly to get there). The 469-mile stretch of road runs from Virginia to North Carolina and can be traveled in three to seven days, depending on how often you want to stop. During the drive, you’ll be treated to close-up views of the Appalachian and Smoky Mountains and more than your fair share of picturesque cascading waterfalls. You can sleep under the stars at one of the Parkway’s eight campgrounds or opt for a bed at the numerous hotels found along the way.
Diverse wildlife and underwater ecosystems, second-to-none scenery and friendly locals make going to Australia a bucket list trip for many wanderlusters around the world. It’s a long trip — 14 hours from California — so you’ll want to make it worth your while by spending at least a week (or maybe a few months!) in the Land Down Under.
Sydney, the waterfront capital of New South Wales, combines beach life with the bustling streets you’d expect to find in a major city. Splurge a little at the country’s answer to Bloomingdale’s and Harrod’s, David Jones, which is located on the corner of Market and Elizabeth Streets. And take in a show at the iconic Sydney Opera House. The Blue Mountains National Park is ideal for hikers, and Bondi Beach is a must for those who just want to relax by the water.
A flight to Cairns is also in order. It’s where you’ll find renowned attractions like The Great Barrier Reef and Daintree Rainforest. Don’t miss out on the thriving art and food scene in the urban mecca of Melbourne and a quick jaunt to Hobart, Tasmania makes for an ideal weekend with a visit to the infamous MONA museum. And don’t forget about wine country! The Barossa Valley in South Australia is not to be missed.
Champagne Region of France
Toast to retirement and better days ahead with the most wine-centric of our vacation ideas for retired couples, heading to the place that makes the only wine that’s technically Champagne. The Champagne Region (formerly Champagne-Adrenne) is located in northeast France between Paris and Belgium. It’s known for its production of the bubbly wine, Champagne. Even folks who aren’t into the sparkling sipper or wine, in general, will love the sprawling vineyard views. There are five main regions in Champagne, and each has its own character and speciality: Montagne de Reims (Pinot Noir), Vallée de la Marne (Pinot Meunier, which is blended with other grapes), Côte des Blancs (Chardonnay), Côte de Sézanne (Chardonnay, and an emerging region) and Aube (non-vintage fizz). Choose one or turn it into a weeks-long, wine-centric vacation you’ll be buzzing about for years to come.
Arizona is a favorite state for snowbirds (people from the north who “migrate” south for summer) and retirees. It boasts mild temperatures year-round, several walkable neighborhoods and the legal right to use a golf cart as your mode of transportation. Take in the natural beauty at Scottsdale’s McDowell Sonoran Preserve and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West Old Town is a walkable hub of arts, culture and shopping, and Sonoran Deserts provides outdoor adventure activities like kayaking, off-road tours, horseback riding and more.
Looking for a rather out there vacation idea as a retired couple? Iceland was becoming a hot tourist location a few years ago. Though that’s cooled off, that’s even better for you — maybe it’ll be slightly less crowded when you make your voyage to see the Northern Lights. Try taking a tour to see the popular phenomenon — guides can help you pick the best day to go based on the weather and location, giving you the best shot at witnessing it. The Blue Lagoon features milky-blue water that people swear nourishes their skin. Don’t worry about the season you choose to visit Iceland — the water at Blue Lagoon is about 102 degrees year-round, making any day perfect for this trip.
Alaska has long been one of the top vacation ideas for retired couples. Cruises are a great way to see the northern frontier, but even if boats aren’t your thing, Alaska is just a seven-hour flight from New York. The state is full of mountain and waterfront views to write home about. Take in the waterfalls and glaciers at Tracy Arm Fjord, which is located in the state’s capital, Juneau. The panoramic views of glaciers and the coastline at Kenai Fjords National Park are also a sight to behold. For a drive that rivals Blue Ridge Parkway, hop on the Alaska-Canada Highway (Alcan Highway), which goes from Dawson Creek, British Columbia to the Delta Junction by Fairbanks. Travelers get to take in miles and miles of mountains and trees. The Alaska Native Heritage Center offers tourists and locals a full picture of the state’s rich history, which includes 11 major cultural groups.
Finger Lakes Wine Region in New York
California gets a good deal of credit for its wine region, but Riesling fans will want to head East to central New York. There, the Finger Lakes wine region boasts the ideal climate for Reisling (and Pinot Noir, for that matter). It’s particularly gorgeous come fall when oenophiles can sip and savor their wine with not only vineyard views but foliage for days. Lamoreaux Landing, one of 35 wineries on the Seneca Lake Trail, has gorgeous waterfront views on the outside and serves buzz-worthy Riesling inside the tasting house. Ravine’s Wine Cellar serves up note worthy Cabernet Franc along with charcuterie in its intimate tasting room. If you have the chance, head to Ithaca, which is 45 minutes away. The city that is home to Ithaca College and Cornell University is a college town. But the amiable locals and vibrant foodie scene in the Commons makes it a must-visit for people of any age.
Mediterranean Coasts of Italy and Greece
Breathtaking views, seaside vibes and luxe shopping make Mediterranean Europe one of the top spots to visit as a retired couple. The area includes parts of Greece, Italy, Spain, France, Israel and more. You’re not likely to see the whole place in one visit. But Santorini, Greece, is a picturesque place to start. Its crisp, white-washed homes and churches, the latter of which often have blue domes, are a favorite postcard photo worth seeing in person.
From there, jet over to the Amalfi Coast. Sorrento, a coastal town with legendary limoncello, makes for a good home base. Day trips to the posh towns of Positano and Capri, where luxury stores and a laidback beachside ambiance co-exist peacefully, are in order. Pro tip: If you’re taking the bus to Positano from Sorrento, sit on the right side to enjoy the views during the white-knuckle trek through the rugged, cliffside roads. (And sit on the left on the way back).
Daytona Beach, Fla.
Florida is known for its lively spring break scene, but Daytona Beach provides a peaceful antidote to Miami that’s worthy of a retiree’s time, hence why this seemingly simple spot makes the list for our best vacation ideas for retired couples. The Daytona International Speedway is a must for Nascar fans or anyone who enjoys the drama of a sporting event. There are also plenty of golf courses. It doesn’t matter if you’re just a notch below Phil Mickelson or someone who has never hit under par in their life. The ocean views and miles of green space make the day a gorgeous one for anyone and everyone. Daytona Beach’s Golf Club’s South Course is a popular spot. There are also spots to scuba dive, fish or simply sit with toes in the sand.
Sandals Grande St. Lucian in St. Lucia
After a lifetime working hard each day, heading to an all-inclusive resort for a week or two can feel like a small taste of heaven which is why this resort makes the list for vacation ideas for retired couples. Sandals Grande St. Lucian in St. Lucia offers just that. The rooms offer various views, from beachfront to poolside and a tropical garden in between. There are more than two handfuls of restaurants to choose from, from high-end white tablecloth eateries to laid-back beachside haunts. During the day, you can simply lay out and take in the Caribbean sights and sounds or enjoy ocean sports, scuba diving and beach volleyball. Those who want to stay landlocked at least for a couple of hours can take part in games like billiards and tennis.